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The battling Binay

Well, this certainly marks a new low in Philippine politics. While not exactly exalted in the past, the incidents at Makati City Hall have plunged the reputation of local politics, and of politicians, to an embarrassing nadir.

Reports have it that police are planning to file charges against Vice President Jejomar Binay, the new “leader of the opposition,” for physical injury, direct assault on a person of authority, oral defamation and grave threats.

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The planned action stems from an “encounter” between Binay and Senior Supt. Elmer Jamias and his men belonging to the Southern Police District.

Supposedly deployed to keep order at Makati City Hall, the site of a protest gathering of Binay supporters who were bent on thwarting the serving of suspension orders on Makati Mayor Junjun Binay, only son of the VP, Jamias and his men were instead confronted by the Vice President, who demanded that the police personnel leave. In the course of this confrontation, according to Jamias, the older Binay berated him and his men, even yanking some policemen by the collar and uttering more insults.

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When one of the policemen tried to prevent a Binay supporter (reportedly the sister of Binay’s wife, Dr. Elenita Binay) from entering City Hall, the Vice President grabbed the officer by the collar and blocked his way. Despite the melee, the police stood their ground in the face of the pro-Binay crowd’s hostility.

More scuffles ensued yesterday morning, with eight people, three of them policemen, injured as officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government tried to serve the suspension order on Mayor Binay and the family’s supporters retaliated by hurling chairs and scuffling with the authorities.

Perhaps, even as you read this, the standoff at Makati City Hall continues, with the threat of even more violence rising and putting everybody on edge.

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The order for the suspension of the Makati mayor, it must be stressed, is the result of an order of the Office of the Ombudsman finding cause to remove him from office while the investigation of the corruption charges lodged against him is ongoing. Remember that similar charges—and attempts to suspend him from his duties—had been made some months back, with similar results due to the threat of violence.

But this is the first time the Vice President himself has jumped into the fray, physically manhandling duly-constituted authority who were there, as they protested, merely to keep order and to prevent the outbreak of violence. Who knew, indeed, that the second highest official of the land would himself initiate a physical attack and launch himself against the police?

It would be comical if it weren’t so shocking. Granted, Binay was provoked, his courage and daring no doubt bolstered by the presence of a sympathetic crowd and of a watchful media. But he is still, after all, a public official and sworn to uphold the law. This, even if he has already distanced himself from P-Noy, the administration, and the administration party.

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Was it simply a way for Binay to gain “pogi points,” proving his macho appeal and derring-do? But is that any way for a responsible government official to act?

Again, the incidents at Makati City Hall would seem to give us a taste of what a Binay presidency could be like, one where mob rule and the arrogance of an individual (and of a family) would hold sway over the law and decency.

I can only hope voters take away the right messages from this fracas, keeping the image of a battling Binay in mind when they fill out their ballots.

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Lost amid the noise and heat of the run-up to the elections was the passing of Lang Dulay, 91, an exemplar of T’boli culture who, with her artistry in T’nalak weaving and her passion to pass on the art to her descendants and younger generations of T’boli, assured that this art form would outlive her.

In a tribute to Lang Dulay, Sen. Loren Legarda, who has taken the championing of Philippine heritage and culture as a personal crusade, filed a resolution at the Senate expressing “profound sympathy and sincere condolences on the death of Gawad sa Manlilikha ng Bayan Awardee and National Living Treasure Master Dreamweaver Lang Dulay.”

In a statement, Legarda declared that “as much as we raise concerns over the loss of our tangible heritage, we should also lament … irreplaceable individuals, such as Lang Dulay, who carry with them our DNA, our cultural identity. They are the keepers of our intangible heritage, we must appreciate them before they are gone.”

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Indeed, not all our artists and artisans, our geniuses and keepers of heritage, are appreciated and rewarded while they are alive. Many languish in obscurity, their works passed off as mere “crafts,” or else dismissed for being “crude” or “simple.”

But it is from such beginnings that we move on to greater heights. It is from the naive and the seemingly simple that we gain an understanding of ourselves and ground ourselves in our history and identity.

Individuals like Lang Dulay may have been viewed as “just” craftspeople through most of their lives. But their devotion to their art, and more importantly, their determination to keep it alive and flourishing among the young, ensures their continuing legacy long after they have passed away. To them we owe our gratitude as a nation.

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TAGS: Binay family, Elmer Jamias, Jejomar Binay, Lang Dulay, Makati City Hall, suspension, T’boli, tnalak
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